State Of The Flyers: This Offseason’s Top Priorities

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers
Apr 6, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) waits for his teammates to leave the ice after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the final game of the season at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

What to do? What to do? What to do? These thoughts have to be going through General Manager of the Flyers Chuck Fletcher’s mind night after night these past few months. Moreover, I’m pretty certain every Flyers fan and their mother is thinking the same thing now. The season is officially over. This is the most critical offseason in recent memory for the orange and black.

The Flyers have to keep their game simple next season. They have to get off to faster starts, and it’s a must for a successful season. The Flyers are gassed year after year towards the end of the season due to fighting for their playoff lives. It has become a common trend for the past four or five seasons, and I wonder if it’s a system thing. Here are some things the Flyers must improve upon for next season to sniff the playoffs, followed by the biggest offseason priority.

Slow Starts

One thing that we have learned this past season is that the slow starts have plagued them once again, like the Bubonic Plague. It’s mind-boggling that year after year for the past eight seasons or so this very topic has to be discussed. How do the Flyers get off to faster starts? Who knows, right? Why are they ill prepared to start the games? Who knows, right?

The Flyers scored 63 first period goals, which was good enough for 22nd in the league. This was followed by 82 goals in period two and 90 goals in period three. To prove this point even further teams scored 94 first period goals against the Flyers, and that leaves a -31 goal differential. This has to be a system thing, as the Flyers got off to slow starts under Dave Hakstol and now Scott Gordon. Of course, it’s not fair to just pin this on Gordon, as he has done an admirable job while filling in as the interim Head Coach. But, this is one reason were not playing playoff hockey.

According to Bill Meltzer, 32 times out of 82 games this season, the Flyers trailed 2-0. Getting behind the 8 ball night after night really takes its toll on a team. They become tired, and flat.

For the last four to five years, maybe longer, the Flyers notoriously have come out flat, and behind the 8-ball in a lot of games. It appears they lack the urgency, and they play uninspired hockey for a period or two. This has resulted in them fighting for their playoff lives towards the tail end of the season. Something has to give to fix the problem. The Flyers can ill afford being gassed at the end of the year next season. They are supposed to take the next step next season, so getting off to a fast start early in the year is critical for this young team.

Proposal

I think the Flyers coaching staff could provide more emphasis on faster starts in practice. If that doesn’t work maybe a sports psychologist has to talk to the team more often. There are no real easy solutions to this problem, but the players say they need to start faster in their post-game interviews. To me, it sounds like they’re aware it’s a problem, and if that’s the case it might be a mental thing. One thing is for certain, they need to get off to faster starts next season.

5-on-5

What more needs to be written about the inconsistencies of play at even strength. The Flyers have tallied 241 Goals For (Which was 14th best in the league), but have allowed 280 Goals Against (Which wass 3rd worst in the NHL). This is good for a -39 differential, “Playoffs, you want to talk about Playoffs,” while taking a page out of Jim Mora’s playbook. There is just no way they can make the playoffs with being this inconsistent.

The Flyers as a team must get better at even strength next season. They have to push the play more consistently, and the orange and black have to have the skaters to play 5-on-5. This is to include the 4th line, as the Flyers should roll four lines, not just two or three. Moreover, to further this point the orange and black had a 48.4% CF, and had a 165.2 xGF (Which is well below the league average of 175.9). Simply put, the Flyers have to generate more quality shots. Lastly, play at 5-on-5 was actually worse under Scott Gordon, than it was under former Head Coach Dave Hakstol.

Proposal

Selecting the right Head Coach is key for the Flyers next season is one key to a solution to this problem. This problem has been lingering for the past few years. Moreover, the orange and black need speedier players to keep up with the pace of the game. They need players that can win board battles to extend plays, doing the dirty work to provide quality scoring chances.

Defense

At times the Defense is nonexistent. I understand the Flyers Defensive core is young. However, the Team Defense was at times nonexistent even before the Flyers were eliminated from the playoffs. Moreover, the Flyers 18-4-2 run under Gordon was thanks in large part to Brian Elliott and Hart, not the Defense. There are simply no excuses for the lack of effort that Elliott and Carter Hart had to face against the St. Louis Blues this past Thursday night. Robert Hagg missed assignments, Shayne Gostisbehere had turnovers, as well as, Ivan Provorov. Corban Knight missed assignments backchecking, it was the team as a whole that missed assignments while leaving Elliott and Hart out to dry. As a unit, the overall team defense has to improve, and leaders such as Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux have to set the tone early next season.

Let’s be honest the dramatic drop-offs in the games of Provorov, and Ghost killed this team defensively this season. They were two main parts to the overall defense of this team in prior years, and to have this type of drop off in play really took its toll on this young group defensively. Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas put together really solid years, but Hagg and Andrew MacDonald were not good this season. Hagg got off to a good start, but midway through the year he really struggled with transitioning out of the zone. MacDonald was bad with transitioning out of the zone, as well, but as a eteran, he should be better.

Provorov stated yesterday, “I was 100% healthy,” while Ghost said he took a puck off his knee back in October against Colorado. Ghost further states that he finally felt better later in the year, but reiterated that he doesn’t make excuses about injuries. However, this explains a lot with his drop off.

As a whole, the Flyers defense for the 2018-19 season registered 821 giveaways, 490 takeaways, and 1,277 blocked shots. These numbers were compared to the 2017-18 season in which the Flyers defense registered 757 giveaways, 487 takeaways, and 1,269 blocked shots. An increase in turnovers this season proved to be costly, thus the -39 goal differential.

Proposal/Top Priorities This Offseason

There are two main priorities this offseason, hiring a Coach, and signing or trading for a top-four defenseman. The Flyers need a veteran defenseman to pair with Provorov. Sanheim played admirably as a top pairing Defenseman this season, but he would be better suited as a middle pairing Defenseman at this stage in his career

If I’m the Flyers I would try trading for Jared Spurgeon, and if that failed I would make an offer sheet to a Restricted Free Agent in Jacob Trouba. Lastly, if that plan failed I would try to sign Erik Karlsson via free agency. The Flyers have options, and assets to obtain a top-four defenseman. This young defensive core needs a stable vet and one that can transition out of the Defensive zone smoothly. Unfortunately, the Flyers miss a Chris Pronger, and Kimmo Timonen type defenseman.

Hope For The Future In Carter Hart

Some people said he wasn’t ready for the big show, while others thought he was. Hart was built for this moment in the NHL, and he has really shown why he was considered the savior of the franchise. For the season, he finished was 16-13-1, had a 2.83 GAA, and owned a .917 Save Percentage. Should we be surprised? Absolutely not, Hart was built for this moment.

He’s electrified the fan base. Hart has proven he is the real deal, and he gives the Flyers hope for the future. On and off the ice Hart seems to amaze people on a daily basis.

Brian Elliott said yesterday, “Philly fans have a lot to look forward to with Carter Hart.”

No proposal needed on this one. The only question remaining in terms of Goaltending is who will serve as Hart’s backup next year Elliott or Talbot? Talbot said yesterday he thinks he can help Hart if he’s brought back here, so he leaves open the possibility of resigning. Either way Fletcher has a lot of household cleaning to do, as well as, put together a group that can gel and win again. It all starts with hiring the right coach, as always Flyers fans lets go Flyers.

Notes:

Coach Q is reportedly headed to Florida, and we at Phillysportsnetwork.com were one of the first sites to report it.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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